Personal Problems:
Split-Screen Version

Director: Bill Gunn
USA / 1980/2021 / 139 min

Introduced by Bret Wood

Last streamed on Thu, Sep 2

Bill Gunn, actor, screenwriter, novelist, and the director of art-horror classic Ganja & Hess (1973), teamed with writer Ishmael Reed and producer Steve Cannon to produce what Reed has called a “meta-soap opera,” an exceptional ensemble piece shot on consumer-grade video circa 1980 exploring black working-class lives in New York City with candor and emotional intensity, featuring a who’s who of major artists, including Walter Cotton, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, Jim Wright, and Sam Waymon, with music by Carman Moore, and cinematography by Robert Polidori.

Much of the film was shot with two cameras running simultaneously. The original tapes were digitized in 2018, as part of the film’s restoration. When the unedited footage from both cameras is placed side-by-side, it reveals much about the spontaneous nature of the performances, in which entire scenes are captured in single takes.

The following presentation of Personal Problems is not a restoration, but a deconstruction. The surviving video elements provide a unique opportunity to better understand the filmmakers’ craft by observing the raw materials they created.

Restoration performed by Bret Wood, and produced by Bret Wood and Jake Perlin.  Special thanks to Ishmael Reed. A Kino Lorber release.